Russian doping program at Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics fuels upcoming decision on Olympic ban
Dozens of Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, including at least 15 medal winners, were part of a state-run doping program, meticulously planned for years to ensure dominance at the Games, according to the director of the country’s antidoping laboratory at the time. The director, Grigory Rodchenkov, who ran the laboratory that handled testing for thousands of Olympians, said he developed a three-drug cocktail of banned substances that he mixed with liquor and provided to dozens of Russian athletes, helping to facilitate one of the most elaborate — and successful — doping ploys in sports history.
In a dark-of-night operation, Russian antidoping experts and members of the intelligence service surreptitiously replaced urine samples tainted by performance-enhancing drugs with clean urine collected months earlier, somehow breaking into the supposedly tamper-proof bottles that are the standard at international competitions, Dr. Rodchenkov said. For hours each night, they worked in a shadow laboratory lit by a single lamp, passing bottles of urine through a hand-size hole in the wall, to be ready for testing the next day, he said.
By the end of the Games, Dr. Rodchenkov estimated, as many as 100 dirty urine samples were expunged.None of the athletes were caught doping. More important, Russia won the most medals of the Games, easily surpassing its main rival, the United States, and undermining the integrity of one of the world’s most prestigious sporting events. [Ruiz & Schwirtz, New York Times]
As this new doping scandal roiled the Russian sporting world, a decision whether to ban Russian athletes from the 2016 Rio Games over previous violations went into overtime.
On Friday, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) postponed a final decision over Russia's eligibility for the Olympics until May, arguing that reforms promised from the Russian side still had not been implemented. [Maynes, VOA news]
Photo Credit: Tony Senicola/New York Times